Reality Check: You’re a Lurker, I’m a Lurker, We’re ALL Lurkers

If you’ve ever gone to a community site just to check it out or perused the comments on your favorite blog, well, I hate to break it to you, but you’re a big creepy lurker.

What I learned in Lurkers: Your Most Important Community Members was that if lurkers make up 80% or even 90% of your online community, that’s not such a terrible thing. Lurkers are Learners! Just because they didn’t comment or take the time to write a post doesn’t mean that they’re not out there telling all their friends about your brand.

Today’s lurkers are tomorrow’s evangelists. The question is, how can we convert them? Here are some tips:

· When writing community content, what is the compelling question that you will ask at the end? Come up with that first, not as an afterthought. Don’t just ask “what do you think.”

· 4 C’s: Be current, be candid, be conversational, be consistent.

· Be helpful, but don’t be helpful right away. Give users a chance to help each other.

· Ask users to do simple actions like post a picture.

· Praise in public but also in private. You can’t write “Thanks!” on every single post, so don’t underestimate the value of a personal, direct message. (There’s an iceberg effect when it comes to community management. Much of what they do is behind the scenes.)

· Start a mentorship program.

· Build qualified mailing lists and craft newsletters specifically for them. Be inviting.

· Come up with predictable programs that create interaction opportunities for users. Every Wednesday, hold “office hours” for content experts to make themselves available to engage more recent members.

· Make welcome emails personal.

· Practice random acts of connection: call, email, send gifts or cards to random users on any given day. This will make them feel special and valued.

· Put super users on an advisory board. They will love the status and users will appreciate having someone relatable to reach out to. Plus, this takes a load off your community manager’s shoulders.

· Create a small focus group of users who are on the cusp and ask them, “how we can engage with you?”

· Provide rewards for different levels of participation. 50 posts earns a badge or a prize.

Keep this in mind: some lurkers are always going to lurk, so why try to engage someone who has no desire to participate?

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